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Bridging the gap between rhetoric and practice: data from 4 studies into the arts and creative writing for personal and professional learning. Dr. Janice K. Jones. 2013 International Conference of the Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE)

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2013 International Conference of the Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE)

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Bridging the gap between rhetoric and practice: data from 4 studies into the arts and creative writing for personal and professional learning

Dr. Janice K. Jones

2013 International Conference of the Australian Association for

Research in Education (AARE)

Adelaide, Australia 1 – 5 December

Dinawan Dreaming by Donna Moodie

Acknowledgement of Country

I acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands where USQ teaching and research is conducted: the Gaibal, Jarowair, Ugarapul and Butchulla peoples of Queensland. I honour the wisdom of Elders past, present and future, seeking to walk together in the spirit of reconciliation.

The vision

  • Educators: Transformative Flexible, creative, adaptable, skilled

  • Broad and deep knowledge of arts theory and practice

  • Learners:

  • Creative, experienced across a broad and deep range of arts and culture

  • Formal learning

  • Lifelong/informal

The Vision - the Practice?

VISION for education ACARA (2010); MCEETYA (2008)

  • Creativity, adaptability

  • Sustainability

  • Diversity, equity and social justice, includes First Peoples’ ways of knowing/being/doing

  • Holistic - wellbeing affective/relational/cultural/spiritual

Drivers for PRACTICE


  • Globalisation Neoliberalism: Learners “atomistic” units of economic exchange in competition (Brohman 1995, p. 297)

    Driving Focus on science, maths, literacies, testing, reporting, benchmarking

A new ‘third world’?

  • A new Third World of ‘haves and have nots’ in education

  • Fear of the unfamiliar/new

  • Teaching to the test

  • Following set curricula

  • Drill and repeat

  • Unimaginative approaches

  • Playful learning squashed

From transformative to didactic?

The single arts course…

  • First year, 1st semester

  • 15 week arts curriculum course

  • Serves ALL pre-service teachers

  • Visual arts, drama, media, music and dance

  • Fully online

  • With videos

  • 2 weeks per area

  • Textbook, group task + exam

  • Planned return to authentic and community based assessment?

Commencing students’ confidence in arts/creativity/sustainability

2010 Respondents: 115/537 yr 1 students aged 17 – 30

93.8% believe creativity and sustainability very or extremely important for teaching

82.1% believe understanding nature is important for a sustainable 21st century

But – Minimal experience in the arts or natural environments since primary school?

“I feel locked in my head” (respondent)

Arts – confidence Drawing

Drama games

Performing from a script

Dance for fun

In other forms of dance

Digital natives?

Not as we imagine

Music - notation

Making music

4 studies in teacher education

  • Educators learning in natural and and play-informed environments

  • Learning by performing – teacher TV stars

  • Becoming a writer

  • Why it matters…

  • Creative and authentic assessment: community-engaged

  • Student films become teaching tools

  • Workshops for schools

  • Troubling – learning as personal, social and contextual

  • Deep reflection

STUDY 1a – Arts learning outdoors

  • 6 weeks 120 students: integrated arts experiences in natural environment

  • Students create drama/story performance in context – use shadows/textures/bamboo forest

  • Waterfall, bridges, rocks, winding pathways, cabins and arbours

  • Pre-service teachers rediscover play!

1b. Experiencing the Land – 3 Ways

  • Smaller group (12): full day’s immersion experience Gummingurru Stones Site

  • Amarroo Environmental Education Centre

  • Cobb and Co Museum – Settler history

    [Learning through being in the land, understanding in keeping with Indigenous Australian peoples’ ‘ways of knowing/making meaning’]

Study 2a: Learning by performing: Pre-service teacher workshops

  • Assessment task: 15 students run workshops in any 3 (or integrate) arts in traditional schools 2005 – 2010) Prepare notes for teacher use.

  • Data gathered - film, student reflections, course evaluations, anonymous surveys

  • Teacher evaluations of the workshops

  • Children’s evaluations of the pre-service teacher workshops

Study 2b – The Alternative School

A garden for the arts

‘Someone playing music…that’s a wind chime…and that’s a tree with apples on it…that one too…and…that’s the beautiful sandpit and a picnic table

and the beautiful grass all around it.’ Chantelle, 6 yrs

Chelsea aged 5 drew lettuce, sunflowers, beans, carrots, flowers, a sandpit, apple trees, and a pond.

Trust the Child

Study 2c: Being TV presenters

Study 3 Becoming writers

  • Critical pedagogy challenged to unlearn and relearn questioning received ideologies

  • “writing stories” (Richardson, 2000)

  • Writing upon writing (Richardson and Adams St Pierre 2005)

  • “Re-writing our world” Wink, 2005

The challenge to write…

I’ll always love you, Mum by Erin-Pearl Buchner

I remember our day in that busy, bright place,

I remember the warmth from your hand,

I remember how cold the autumn breeze felt,

And how alive my face became from being near you,

I remember the bustle and hurry of that city,

I remember how we ate that huge ice-cream,

I remember walking close to you to keep warm,

With your arm around me,

Even though now that the autumn breeze is blowing again,

I remember savouring that day with you,

But now memories are all that I hold,

As I parent you.

Weaving Words: Personal and professional transformation through writing as research (Jones, J.K. Ed. 2014) Cambridge Scholars Publishing

Pre-service teachers were challenged to write a poem, a playlet or a short story during their final year of study.

Many considered giving up the course – or asked to write ‘something for kids’

However, when they began writing, most found the experience transformative.

…inductive, intuitive, spiralling in approach, poetic methods - if we may speak of assembling words and the wide white spaces around them and using them in such a way as to create a ‘how’ - may provide a choreography, something of the spin and grace of dance (Saunders, 2010, p.362)

Study 4: Why it matters

  • Disillusioned and unhappy young people bored and lost – rejecting school

  • This group of artists were fulfilled by working together

A challenge for educators

  • The alternative school was forced to close in 2008 – 20 families affected

  • The youth centre and safe space to sleep closed in 2011

  • The most rapidly growing form of education in Queensland?

  • Homeschooling.

  • Creative and confident children and teachers and children are vital for our future.

A safe space to make mistakes

Importance of being honoured as learners and teachers:

I remember going to class and thinking “Are you nuts? I can’t possibly do that!” …then walking out with a feeling of achievement. I remember going to your office for the first time and seeing my picture on your wall. It was a good feeling.


Jones, J.K. (2006). Work in progress: The Magic Gardens Project: A child-centred curriculum in a non-traditional school meeting state targets for the arts The International Journal of the Arts in Society, 1(1), 1-16.

Jones, J.K. (2008). In the Third Space: The Storied Self, Uncertainty and Transition. In R. Henderson & P. A. Danaher (Eds.), Troubling Terrains: Tactics for Traversing and Transforming Contemporary Educational Research (pp. 193-210). Teneriffe, Queensland: Post Pressed.

Kalantzis, M., & Cope, B. (2008). New Learning: Elements of a Science of Education. Port Melbourne, Victoria: Cambridge University Press. MCEETYA. (2008). Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians. Melbourne: Curriculum Co

Phipps, A., & Saunders, L. (2010). The sound of violets: The ethnographic potency of poetry? Ethnography and Education 4(3), 357–387.

Zajda, Joseph (Ed.). (2010). Globalisation, Ideology and Education Policy Reforms New York: Springer Netherlands.

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